France and Real Madrid footballer Benzema given suspended sentence after sex-tape court case
Benzema has scored nine times for France since being recalled. /AFP

Benzema has scored nine times for France since being recalled. /AFP


France and Real Madrid soccer player Karim Benzema has been given a one-year suspended sentence for complicity in an attempt to blackmail his former France team-mate Mathieu Valbuena with a sex tape.

The sentence was tougher than prosecutors had sought for the 33-year-old footballer over the 2015 extortion attempt, which led Benzema to be left out of the France team for more than five years.

Benzema was not in court in Paris for the verdict. His defense team immediately said it would appeal.

He was not accused of conspiring with the suspected blackmailers by putting pressure on Valbuena to pay them off.

The court added that he had shown "no kindness towards Valbuena," as claimed, but "just the opposite" and had even appeared to take pleasure in his fellow player's demise.

One of his lawyers, Sylvain Cormier, called the sentence "very severe, unfair and unfounded."

Benzema was one of five people tried over the ultimately unsuccessful attempt to blackmail Valbuena with a sexually explicit video stolen from his phone. 

He claims he was only trying to help Valbuena when he approached him at the French team's training center in October 2015 and told him he could help him find someone to "manage" the issue of the video.

But in a phone conversation to a childhood friend, also convicted over the extortion attempt, Benzema told his alleged accomplice "he's not taking us seriously." Prosecutors said this proved his part in the plot.

Valbuena, 37, lost his place in the France team over the affair and said the blackmail attempt had left him feeling "frightened" and fearful for his career.

Benzema's four co-accused received sentences ranging from 18 months suspended to two-and-a-half years in prison.

French football federation president Noel Le Graet has said Benzema could keep his place even if convicted.

Benzema has scored nine times for France since being recalled by manager Didier Deschamps for the Euro 2020 finals this year, making him the fifth-highest scorer in the history of Les Bleus.

Source(s): AFP

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